Letter From My Grandmother in Tsingtao
Once in a drought, I dropped
all my children down a well
to make the water rise.Mothers always choose their own
mouths over mourning. The myth
of hunger begins like this:in Tsingtao, the German army
stole rice & millet, fed our bodies
to bullets. They builtchurches to keep a god & barns
to keep their women. How many girls
can be stolen fromthe same body? I sold
myself to a soldier
for the price of a fish.I gutted out his green eyes,
gave them back to my children.
Even a fish mistakes the seafor safety, the fisherman’s
hook for god. I raised you like a river
outrunning her land. I nursed younative to thirst & rain
outsourced from a foreign sky.
I taught you to butchera bird & convert its bones
into perches. I taught you
every woman needsa man like a weapon
needs motive. The nation
I was born in nowbelongs to burning. History starts
like a housefire & I braid smoke
into your hair. I once beat youfor forgetting to pray
before bed. Remember
to take the lord’s namenightly like a pill. Kneel
now & remember I knot
your tongue to mineso you never drift far
from my hunger. I alphabetize
my gods by countryof origin, America always
first. Daughter, count soldiers
til you sleep. One of themwill hold you by the black
of your hair. One of them
will father you & the otheris your son. There is no ridding
a sheet of blood. Grieve that your eyes
are green. Surrender your skinfasting into a white flag.
Copyright © 2018 by Kristin Chang
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Kristin Chang lives in New York, and reads for Winter Tangerine. Her work has been nominated for Best New Poets and Best of the Net, and she has been anthologized in Bettering American Poetry Vol. 3. She is a 2018 Gregory Djanikian Scholar (selected by the Adroit Journal), the recipient of a 2019 Pushcart Prize, and a Resist/Recycle/Regenerate Fellow with the Wing On Wo Project in Manhattan Chinatown, where she teaches paper-making. workshops as anti-gentrification resistance and community building. Her debut chapbook Past Lives, Future Bodies (2018) is published by Black Lawrence Press.
The Adroit Journal (ISSN 2577-9427) was founded in November 2010 by poet Peter LaBerge. At its foundation, the journal has its eyes focused ahead, seeking to showcase what its global staff of emerging writers sees as the future of poetry, prose, and art.
Recently featured in Best American Poetry, Pushcart Prizes: Best of the Small Presses, Poetry Daily, Best of the Net, Best New Poets, Verse Daily, The New York Times, The Paris Review, Teen Vogue, and NPR, the journal has featured the voices of Terrance Hayes, Franny Choi, D. A. Powell, Alex Dimitrov, Lydia Millet, NoViolet Bulawayo, Ocean Vuong, Ned Vizzini, Fatimah Asghar, Danez Smith, and beyond.